‘What’s My Name’: A collection of feel-good songs, but lacking shine

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‘What’s My Name’: A collection of feel-good songs, but lacking shine

Kai Zheng, Arts and Entertainment Editor

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The 21st century has been a busy one for ex-Beatle Ringo Starr. Since 2003, he has consistently been putting out releases. The longest gap between albums being three years, Starr has fit in countless tours all over the globe with his All-Starr band in the meantime. 

So, the time has come for our bi-yearly reacquaintance with the drummer through his 20th studio album “What’s My Name.”

The incessant and invigorating optimism of the album is almost, but not quite enough to distract the listener from the fact that the album is more of a collection of star-studded, good-times jam sessions than a collection of polished songs. 

Recorded throughout 2019 in Starr’s home studio, the album showcases excellent musicianship, semi-embarrassing lyrics and Starr’s trademark happy-go-lucky peace and love. 

The album opens with “Gotta Get Up to Get Down,” a zany poor man’s version of his former band’s “Come Together” that ultimately goes nowhere. Featuring random pseudo-political shout breaks from Eagles guitarist and Starr’s brother-in-law Joe Walsh, the song makes one cringe at times. 

Starr turned 79 this past July and with that comes an expiration date on lyrics like “I got a woman, you know what I mean/ I got the crackers, but she’s got the cream.”

“What’s My Name” begins to pick up steam with a classic Ringo-rocker “It’s Not Love That You Need,” an ode to keeping one’s head up in times of need. 

And of course, it wouldn’t be a proper Ringo Starr album without a mini Beatles reunion. The album’s highpoint lies within the grooves of its third track “Grow Old With Me,” Starr’s emotional tribute to former bandmate John Lennon. Starr is joined by Paul McCartney who plays bass and sings backup on the track, offering a heartfelt and nostalgic moment.  

With Starr in mind, Lennon wrote and recorded a demo of the song shortly before his death in December of 1980. 

The track is brought together by producer Jack Douglas’s excellent string accompaniment. The minimalist approach to the backing band’s instrumentation allows McCartney’s signature bass sound to effortlessly shine through, reminiscent of the early Beatles days. I would’ve been happy if all we heard this year from Starr was this song. 

It seems Starr would at least somewhat agree with that statement. 

Though the rest of the album is filled with toe-tapping numbers with infectious hooks and choruses, it simply lacks substance. 

Cheery numbers like “Magic,” “Better Days” and “Life Is Good” all follow Starr’s cookie-cutter formula of getting down and smiling in the sunshine. 

“What’s My Name” features a cover of the Motown classic “Money,” a song the Beatles also covered on their 1963 release “With The Beatles.” 

What would’ve been a nice moment on the album is ruined by overproduction and modernization of the track. Starr’s voice is autotuned, which is extremely off-putting and takes you out of the moment. 

It’s hard to believe that the man who sat and drummed behind Lennon, McCartney and George Harrison on the same track could bring such a disservice to it over half a decade later. It’s an interesting new take, sure, but not a welcome one. 

The album closes out strong with the raucous title track, featuring excellent guitar work by Walsh. The four-on-the-floor rocker was the album’s debut single and gets one thing right- “I can still rock and roll/ You can’t deny.” 

Overall, “What’s My Name” isn’t a unique Starr album by any means, but offers the listener a chance to join Ringo in what he does best- have a good time. 

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